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Buckley: Ice challenge for ALS

Comm. Ave. rivals face off for charity

Thursday, July 9, 2015 By Steve Buckley

Photo by: Mark Garfinkel
ON THE BALL: New Bruin and BC alum Jimmy Hayes, who hosted a street hockey clinic for kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Charlestown at the North End’s Puopolo Park yesterday, will be among the participants in tomorrow’s Comm Ave Challenge.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was not a one-shot phenomenon. Such was the emotional tug of last year’s grassroots fundraiser for ALS research that it’s going to happen all over again at the beginning of August.

For this, we’ll always owe a debt a gratitude to Pete Frates. The former Boston College baseball captain’s fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has become our fight, raising millions of dollars to help find a cure for this terrible disease.

And now Hall of Famer Raymond Bourque and a collection of hockey players from Boston College and Boston University are getting together to help the cause on yet another level: They’re going to raise money to help provide care for those who have already contracted ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The magnificently-named Comm Ave Charity Classic, to be played Friday night at 7 at BU’s Walter Brown Arena, will headline ol’ No. 77 as well as a who’s-who of former Terriers and Eagles skaters who’ve gone on to play in the National Hockey League and American Hockey League.

The cast includes such old-timers as Shawn McEachern and Jay Pandolfo of BU, and Brian Leetch and Mike Mottau of BC. You’ll find younger players, led by Johnny Gaudreau, the 150-pound (soaking wet) BC winger who last year went directly from Chestnut Hill to the Calgary Flames.

And how about those Hayes boys from Dorchester? Jimmy, recently acquired by the Bruins, and Kevin, a New York Ranger, will be returning to their Eagle roots.

The game is being played in memory of Ron Perryman and Dick Kelley, two Boston College stalwarts who battled ALS, and in honor of Pete Frates, who has only just begun to fight.

Perryman, a former BC football player, died in 2011. Kelley, an extraordinary sports information director at BC, died in 2014.

Quick story about Dick Kelley: Several years ago, I had filed a column on a BC-Duke men’s basketball team that included a jab at Eagles forward Sean Marshall, and a few weeks later I went to the Garden to cover the Beanpot. I was interviewing a Northeastern player after the game when Dick came by, spotted me, and said, “How could you take a shot at a kid like Sean Marshall??!!”

To which I replied, “Dick, I’m interviewing this guy from Northeastern, so if you don’t mind . . .”

“But I DO mind,” said Dick, storming off.

God rest him, the passion that man had for Boston College! Ask anyone from up Chestnut Hill way. And I tell you about Dick, Pete Frates and Ron Perryman for the simple reason that their respective battles were, and in Pete’s case are, expensive and time-consuming. And while the Ice Bucket Challenge is all about finding a cure for ALS, Friday night’s Comm Ave Charity Classic is all about caring for those fighting the disease.

The beneficiary is Compassionate Care ALS, a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, offers individualized support to those currently living with ALS.

Compassionate Care ALS was founded by Ron Hoffman, a West Falmouth resident who was introduced to the world of primary care while tending to the needs of Gordon Heald, a Weston resident who battled ALS.

“I’m extremely honored and excited that we’re going to be a part of this,” said Hoffman. “Caring for people with catastrophic illness is something that doesn’t get enough attention in this country, so this is as much about raising awareness as raising money.”

As for putting the actual event together, that task fell to Pat Mullane, a former Eagle who has logged some time in the AHL and is now planning to play professionally in Finland. As he put it, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the hockey community, it’s that it’s very receptive to events like this.”

Mullane wasn’t sure how many players he’d be able to line up. Some were still involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs when he reached out. Some were not, and therefore hard to find. Plus, he said, “A lot of guys have weddings to go to this time of year.”

But one by one, they responded. And come Friday night, the Eagles and Terriers will be battling again, but with something other than the Beanpot on the line.

Mullane’s inspiration for this game was Dick Kelley, who, he said, “Took me under his wing when I was a freshman at BC. He exemplified everything BC stands for in terms of being loyal, genuine and a man for others.”

Footnote to my story about Dick Kelly: Turns out Sean Marshall and Pete Frates were roommates at Boston College. Pete later told me that Marshall didn’t care about what I’d written and that he laughed about it.

But Dick Kelley cared. And though he was a quiet man who chose to keep his battle against ALS a private affair, the roster of hockey talent Pat Mullane has assembled illustrates what Dick Kelley means to the local college sports community — as much now as ever.